Isa from Goodness Guru approached me to talk about the ins and outs of starting a food business...
I hope the below is helpful to anybody starting up in the food industry.
What came first the food waste or the hummus?
The food waste…. The only reason I started ChicP was because I was creating hummus and dips from leftovers and tired of seeing huge amounts of food wasted at all the food events I was working at, as well as seeing it in high street chains at the end of the day.
When did you first have the idea for Chic P?
I was working in Central London in a lovely office job but got tired of not being satisfied by what I was doing. I have always been passionate about sustainability and food waste and with this job, there was nothing sustainable, in fact it was quite the opposite.
I was going home in the evenings and turning leftovers into hummus. There was never a supermarket hummus that I really enjoyed buying and I realised that there were no dip brands offering a sustainable solution as well as being healthy. ChicP hummus has half raw vegetables which means that it has half the amount of fat to normal hummus, not to mention that the vegetables are all class 2 and/or from surplus!
How did you go about scaling up production from in your kitchen to a factory?
This was one of my biggest challenges. It took me months to find a manufacturer. I started developing with one but then had to find someone else due to minimum order quantities. It requires a lot of ringing around, patience and asking people in all areas of the food industry. Finally, one recommendation got me to where I am now, however they still have minimum order quantities so I am continually doing lots of events at weekends and trying to find more stockists in order to make sure I sell all the hummus I produce each week. If I can’t, I donate some to food charities.
How did you undergo the process of meeting with stockists?
It is different for every stockist but normally it is a case of finding out who the buyer is for each retailer and getting in contact. I advise you to be well prepared - know everything about your product, try and be as retail ready as possible and know your prices.
What’s been the biggest challenge in starting your own business?
Finding a manufacturer and my short shelf life. I am still struggling with the shelf life! Being a chilled product is not easy...
What’s been the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Seeing it grow from one step to the next has been satisfying and it’s very rewarding to see the hummus now in all the top London Independents, especially Wholefoods. Getting to this stage and no longer making the hummus myself is a huge weight off my shoulders… however, there are just as many challenges in different areas!
What tips do you have for maintaining a good work / life balance?
I believe that it is hugely important to keep a balance between your work life and having a social life. This was something I made sure of when I started ChicP. I work very hard but still make sure I see my friends during the week - luckily ChicP is a relatively social business so I can have quite a bit of fun at weekends if I’m doing events.
It is easy to get sucked to your work but try and say yes to social things and get up earlier the next morning or work later the following evening if you need to catch up.
This goes the same with exercise - I will always try and make time in the day to exercise and the joy of working for myself means that if I need a break in the middle of the day, I can jump outside and go on a run.
What is the health motto you live by?
Work hard, play hard.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Ooooh tricky one… I have a massive sweet tooth, so anything sweet. Normally homemade cake or nut butters and chocolate.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a food business?
I would advise them to really really research the market first to make sure that if they are sure about their idea, it is different from anything else out there in their category. There is a huge amount of competition and the shelves are becoming more saturated so if it doesn’t have strong USP’s, it’s going to be difficult to reach those shelves. Sustainability is also a key factor in 2017…
FROM ROOT TO STEM
Have you ever looked in your bin half way through peeling and chopping your ingredients for dinner and thought “mmm, that looks delicious?” No, neither have I. But here’s why one fast spreading food trend of 2016 – “root to stem” cooking - is about to show us why we’re wrong.
Where does it all come from?
Last year we saw innovative chefs beginning to use what most people would consider sad, old vegetable scraps destined for the rubbish to create fresh, exciting and delicious plates of food. The idea behind this thrifty way of cooking developed from the popular and longstanding “nose to tail” approach to meat, which aims to use every part of an animal (hopefully not actually the nose though, because that sounds gross). Whilst taking that idea and applying it to fruits and vegetables came from a curiosity in the kitchen about flavours and textures, rather than a need to use scrappy bits up, it does have an undeniable effect on waste.
Food waste? Really?
Food waste is a major issue. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink a year, much of which we could probably have eaten. When we buy vegetables from supermarkets (rather than farmer’s markets) we’re buying something that’s been tidied up and trimmed down to make it easy to cook and easy to prepare. As supermarket’s pump out perfect carrot after perfect carrot we lose our awareness of what real vegetables look like and what to do with the whole vegetable. So if we are presented with a sprouty green carrot top we have no idea what to do with it, and straight in the bin it goes!
What is it all about?
Root to stem cooking is showing us that there’s still goodness and flavour in those odds and ends. The obvious option is to use the leftovers to make stock, but there’s only so many litres of vegetable stock my freezer can hold and in all honesty I’ll probably never defrost it and use it because I find defrosting things one of the most painful kitchen tasks known to man. With this in mind, I looked around to find some more exciting recipes using the skins, tops and any other left over bits of the veggies we usually have at home.
Some tips to cook?
You know that woody, knobbly bit on a broccoli? Turns out you can totally eat it and it’s yummy! It tastes much more delicate and subtle than it looks. Once you’ve sliced off the tough bits and outside skin, it works well sliced finely in to ribbons with a peeler and dressed with some olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan and pepper.
You could also try using fennel stalks as a bed for fish if you’re steaming or baking it in foil, which will fragrance it with a beautiful fennel flavour. Chuck in a few capers and you’re good to go! Or add the delicious, peppery raw leaves of a cauliflower to a salad to mix it up. If you’re not in to that you could also steam them lightly, as you would kale, and enjoy a big nutritious pile of them as a side dish.
You can even jazz up those boring potato skins by frying them in oil until crispy and serving with a sprinkle of salt and some flavoured hummus or a fresh guacamole for dipping.
Whilst we don’t all have to start pickling rinds and trying to make soup out of onion skins, simply using up a whole broccoli or cauliflower when we buy one would be a step in the right direction. Here’s hoping that this changing way we view our veg will filter down to the supermarkets and result in more “real” and natural looking food on the shelves!
This post is from Zen Habits Journal - I have chosen 3 of his points that go hand in hand with ChicP's ethos. He states that these individual choices are all small measures but you may as well start now...
1. You’re better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm.
Eating local is lovely, but most carbon emissions involving food don’t come from transportation — they come from production, and the production of red meat and dairy is incredibly carbon-intensive.
Emissions from red-meat production come from methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Experts disagree about how methane emissions should be counted in the planet’s emissions tally, but nearly everyone agrees that raising cattle and sheep causes warming that is an order of magnitude morethan that from raising alternate protein sources like fish and chicken (the latter of which have the added benefit of creating eggs).
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon, a typical household that replaces 30 percent of its calories from red meat and dairy with a combination of chicken, fish and eggs will save more carbon than a household that ate entirely local food for a full year.
Yes, eating nothing but locally grown fruits and vegetables would reduce your carbon footprint the most. But for people not ready to make that leap, reducing how much meat you eat matters more than going local.
2. Eat everything in your refrigerator.
Scientists have estimated that up to 40 percent of American food is wasted — which amounts to almost 1,400 calories per person every day. Food waste occupies a significant chunk of our landfills, adding methane to the atmosphere as it decomposes. Even more important, wasted food adds to the amount of food that needs to be produced, which is already a big part of our carbon load.
How can you waste less? For food shopping, plan out meals ahead of time, use a shopping list and avoid impulse buys. At home, freeze food before it spoils. If you find yourself routinely throwing prepared food away, reduce portion sizes.
3. Buy less stuff, waste less stuff.
It’s not just car manufacturing that adds to carbon emissions. Other consumer goods can have a huge impact: Making that new MacBook Proburns the same amount of carbon as driving 1,300 miles from Denver to Cupertino, Calif., to pick it up in person.
At the other end of the product life cycle, reducing waste helps. Each thing you recycle is one fewer thing that has to be produced, and reduces the amount of material that ends up in landfills. But the recycling process consumes energy as well, so — depending on the material — it may not be as helpful as you might think. Recycling a magazine every day for an entire year saves less carbon than is emitted from four days of running your refrigerator.
It’s better not to consume the raw materials in the first place, so you may want to think carefully about whether you’re really going to use something before you buy it.
Of course, these individual choices are all small measures.
A sustainable solution that avoids severe damage to the planet will require fundamental changes in the global energy system: transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy and sharply reducing the number of cars that run on internal-combustion engines.
Advocating public policies that support the development of clean energy and efficient transportation is probably the most climate-friendly thing you can do. But cultural and behavioral change can be part of the solution as well. Might as well start now.
We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. We think this seasonal celebration is the time to start making an effort to waste less and appreciate more.
Clean and Lean is all about being kind to yourself. We need to apply this to the way we think of environment too. It is very easy to forget the journey our food has been on before it has reached our plate. Thinking about the work, time and money involved in each item in our fridge, it might makes us reconsider the amount we throw into the bin.
Farmers all over the country work hard all year round to provide us with fresh fruit and vegetables. Before they’ve even reached the supermarkets, thousands of tons are rejected because of their shape and size because they fail “cosmetic standards”. This is hugely detrimental to our farmers. So much delicious produce is thrown away simply because it doesn’t ‘look good enough’.
The cost of throwing away wasted food is expensive and is harming ourenvironment. More fuel is needed to transport the waste and the vast amount of food that is going to landfill is contributing to global warming.
The sad thing is most of the food that is wasted in the UK(4.1 million tons or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed.
ChicP’s top tips on ‘How To Waste Less’:
- Sell by dates are merely a guide, food can be eaten days after. Do not throw away food because it is the ‘due’ date. Taste, smell and if it seems fine, it will be perfectly edible!
- When buying food, think about the week that lies ahead. Big weekly shops often means half the food ends in the bin. Buying daily or every other day is much more economical, environmental and often more beneficial for your health as the food is fresher.
My tips on what to do with food that is going off:
- I absolutely love making dips from meals that I have cooked the day before. If I don’t want the same roast vegetables and feta again, I’ll blend them into a creamy dip and eat with raw vegetable sticks and delicious healthy crackers.
- You can also whiz up a soup with all the leftovers.
- If you’re cooking chicken, I like to roast a whole chicken – it goes much further! Then make a stock from the bones for a soup the next day.
- I hardly ever go to the supermarket; I often buy from farmers markets in London – you can get large quantities of vegetables and fruit in bowls for £1.
- Baking is another great way to use up ingredients. Bananas, pears, carrots and other vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, flours or oils you may be trying to get rid of can all be mixed together to create a healthy smoothie, breakfast bar, or sweet treat. Get creative.
- If you really don’t want to eat your mouldy avocados, mash them up with some coconut oil and make a face or hair mask.